The people of Gaza must suffer from serial déjà vu. Another Israeli invasion, yet more death and destruction, flattened urban quarters and above all hundreds of innocent civilians killed. Yet so much of the media reporting might suggest this was the first time it had ever happened.
The massacres of 500-700 Palestinian civilians in Khan Younis in took place during the first Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip on Nov. 3, 1956. According to the BBC’s Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, there was one family that lost 21 members.
Fast forward to the first day of the second Israel occupation on June 6, 1967, and Bowen cites the 28 young men from the Abu Rass family from the Zaytoun district in Gaza who were captured and just executed. To show Israel’s consistency 23 members of the Al Samouni family were killed in 2009, one of many extended families to be suffer mass losses. In this current aggression at least 20 members of one were killed in Khan Younis on 20 July. Are Israeli soldiers unaware that this unarmed civilian population are ‘protected persons’ under International humanitarian law?
The United Nations has also been a regular target for Israeli bombing rarely missing out on a pounding. Are Israeli forces not aware that U.N. buildings should enjoy immunity? There have been Israeli shelling of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools and health centres including ona school in Beit Hanoun on July 24. Go back to 1967, one finds that the headquarters of the United Nations Expeditionary Force was bombed in Gaza and 90 of UNRWA’s 100 schools were damaged in the fighting. On Jan. 152009 the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was bombed. Israel also targeted a U.N. compound at Qana in Lebanon in April 1996 killing 106.
An Israeli speciality is bombing power stations. On July29, it put Gaza’s sole power station out of action. In fact Israel had hit the station twice in the week before as well but much of the reporting could not even delve that far back. Very few indeed noted that Israel had bombed this same plant in 2006 and in 2009. Moreover, it did the same to a power plant in southern Beirut in 2006. Power plants are civilian infrastructure and their destruction is possibly a war crime.
But what gets under the skin of so many is that whilst the Assad regime is sanctioned and condemned, Israel is lauded, protected and given a multi-billion dollar annual sponsorship deal with the United States.Chris Doyle
Historical crimes are barely reported in media coverage. Audiences may not be aware at all that 70 per cent of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees or about how they got there. Do they know that Sderot, the target of many rocket attacks from Gaza, is built on the lands of the Palestinian village of Najd, whose villagers were expelled in 1948? Some 400,000 civilians are told to move from areas of Gaza, to where Israel does not say, forcing yet another mass displacement of Palestinians.
The obvious question is how come Israel has got away with all this and much more.
A major issue is accountability or more accurately the breath-taking total lack of it. This goes to the heart of the issue as to how Israel is viewed as it is across the Arab and broader Islamic World. The scale of Israeli atrocities pales in comparison with those of many other regimes. Over 1700 Syrians were killed last week alone, the worst week of the entire Syrian uprising but barely rated a media mention.
But what gets under the skin of so many is that whilst the Assad regime is sanctioned and condemned, Israel is lauded, protected and given a multi-billion dollar annual sponsorship deal with the U.S.. Nearly every Arab knows Israel has violated countless United Nations Security Council Resolutions but also that the U.S. has vetoed (42) or threatened to veto countless other resolutions. Why, they ask, is Israel untouchable?
The issue is brought into sharper contrast with the outrage over Russia, Ukraine and Crimea. Western nations demanded Russia end its occupation of Crimea, but do not say the same over Gaza and the West Bank. Putin’s aggression has been confronted immediately with escalating sanctions. Not only is Israel not faced with sanctions but these are specifically ruled out. In contrast western powers sanction Palestine and Palestinians.
Unlike Israel, Hamas is held to account for its crimes of deliberately rocketing civilians. The international community sanctions Hamas and many countries designate it as a terrorist group. Israel metes out its own instant ‘justice’ usually with a one tonne bomb.
What will be the impact on Israel? According to Gerard Horton from Military Court Watch: "The danger is Israel will sleep walk into pariah status if it is seen to remain above the law." Horton tells me that Israel is "operating in a parallel universe, a completely different set of principles seem to apply to this conflict."
Attempts to hold Israel to account have always failed. Notoriously the U.N. investigation into the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict commonly known as the Goldstone report, found both Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes. Israel and the U.S. orchestrated such a backlash to ensure the commission’s findings were ignored. The U.N. Human Rights Council is mounting another inquiry even though opposed by the U.S. given the saving of Goldstone expectations that it will be respected must be slim. President Abbas may, indeed should, apply for membership of International Criminal Court as the only way to provide protection to his people, but the U.S. has already made clear the torrent of punitive measures such a move would trigger.
If the international community does not hold Israel to account, there is a distinct possibility of increasing private lawsuits and more Boycott Divestment Campaigns. Israel fears delegitimisation but its actions fuel exactly that process. International leaders should demand accountability for Israel’s sake as well as the overriding objective of ensuring that such horror never befalls Gaza again as it has not least in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1987, 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2014.
Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.SHOW MORE